By: Bronwyn Mitchell-Strong —
Something is rotten in the state of Greenwood. Why else would the leader of Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) run in front of the nearest video camera to basically crow the equivalent of “no collusion” and “total exoneration,” when the preliminary phase one audit report clearly shows a lack of fiduciary responsibility and respect for the revenue in which tax payers entrust to BCPS? The fact that the limited audit, whose scope and breadth were crafted by the subject of the audit, did not result in people in handcuffs being led out of Greenwood, does not mean all is well and good and above reproach.
In fact, even though the audit working-group was the superintendent’s cabinet, the fox auditing the hen house, the audit revealed that “BCPS does not follow established business practices and are not aligned with traditional procurement best management practices.” For example, BCPS prefers no-bid contracts to open competition. BCPS doesn’t feel that entering into contracts with vendors is at all necessary. Documentation supporting purchases is often missing. And the travel budget is flagrantly misused with employees spending up to three times the federal General Services Administration rate, which BCPS policy follows.
The people of Baltimore County freely pay taxes to support the common good of public education. In return, every cent of every dollar should be used in the best possible way to produce an educated citizenry. We the people have the right to know how and why and on what our money is being spent. Transparency is our right. This limited audit was the first in what I hope are many different lights that will be shone into the darkest depths of Greenwood disinfecting a systemic disregard for revenue trusted to it.
The Board of Education needs to demand that the other phases of the audit be rolled out immediately. If they refuse, then the county executive must step in. If he refuses, then the state should intervene. Taxes are not bad as long as they are being spent wisely, frugally, and efficiently. BCPS is not keeping up its covenant with the people of Baltimore County, needs to be held to account. Its leadership should be shouting the loudest in favor of the full audit rather than telling us to move along – there is nothing to see – while our tax dollars burn and our children fail.
– Bronwyn Mitchell-Strong lives in Sparks and is a Baltimore County Public School parent, county foster-adoptive resource parent, PTA Treasurer, author, and environmental educator. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.